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Drunk British mother who assaulted three cabin crew members during flight given suspended sentence

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Emma Langford leaves Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court in May last year (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Emma Langford leaves Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court in May last year (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Emma Langford leaves Uxbridge Magistrates’ Court in May last year (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

A drunk passenger who assaulted three British Airways cabin crew members on a flight to South Africa has been handed a suspended jail sentence.

Emma Langford, 48, of Old Basing, Hampshire, had to be forcibly restrained by staff after verbally abusing and attacking them on board the plane that left Heathrow Airport for Cape Town on December 6 2018.

The mother of two had been on her way to stay at residential rehabilitation for her alcoholism when she punched and pushed flight staff, causing bruising and leaving one with a cut to their leg.

Judge Nicholas Wood sentenced Langford to a total of 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, at Isleworth Crown Court.

He said the decision to suspend the sentence was "borderline" but it was driven by the impact that custody would have on her recovery and children.

Commenting on her actions, he said: "There is no escape route at 30,000 feet.

"I've no doubt whatsoever there were passengers on that plane that were fearful of their lives over what you might do."

He also ordered Langford to pay £1,000 of compensation to each of her three victims, all British Airways employees, as well as £1,000 in costs.

A magistrates' court hearing last year was told that around 30 minutes after flight BA043 took off, Langford, smelling of alcohol, had demanded a drink and hurled abuse at staff.

Despite being told to calm down and given water, she did not remain in her seat and at one point chased a cabin crew member away.

Customer services manager Matthew Richardson said Langford had been "raising her voice" and displaying "agitated body language" as she complained about being thirsty.

Mr Richardson added: "She approached me with a puffed-up chest and was behaving erratically again, she was verbally abusive."

Staff grew increasingly concerned over Langford's behaviour, before she launched an attack on Mr Richardson.

He said she "hit me several times", including being punched around three times in his left collarbone.

Mr Richardson's colleagues, Poppy Haynes and Monique Foulger, were also victims of assault on the flight.

Langford's drunken behaviour also saw her smash crockery and glasses to the floor.

Eventually, she was served with a violation notice by staff on the plane, which she ripped up saying "Blah, blah, blah", Mr Richardson said.

Langford, who has had alcohol problems since 2007, was restrained in her seat for the rest of the journey.

Mitigating for Langford, Guy Wyatt said her anxiousness about flying had "got the better of her".

"She started to drink before she boarded the plane, tried to continue... lost control of herself catastrophically," he said.

He added: "Through me, she apologises and expresses her contrition towards cabin crew, other passengers and all involved."

Mr Wyatt said Langford, who has a bipolar diagnosis, suffered from a "catastrophic addiction" to alcohol, but was currently 129 days sober.

He highlighted her "clean scores" from wearing a Scram bracelet, a device that monitors the wearer's ingestion of alcohol, and that she was supported by a 24-hour sober companion in court.

Time in custody risked "destabilising" her recovery, which included attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, Mr Wyatt warned.

At a court hearing in May last year, Langford admitted charges of being drunk on an aircraft, behaving in an abusive manner towards flight staff and causing criminal damage.

In December, she also pleaded guilty to three charges of assault by beating against Mr Richardson, Ms Foulger and Ms Haynes.

Judge Wood warned Langford: "If you get drunk and commit further offences, I doubt any court will have mercy."

Langford, who has drink-drive convictions from 2019 and 2009, was handed five-month sentences, suspended for 18 months, for the assault charges.

These will be served concurrently with a 12-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, for the charge of being drunk on an aircraft.

There was no separate penalty for the criminal damage and abusive behaviour charges.

PA Media